When I was pregnant with our son, I knew that we would always take him to Church with us on Sunday but I was nervous thinking of how he would behave as he got older. Thankfully, he is usually well behaved during Mass and has even started to follow along with praying, singing, doing the sign of peace, kneeling and even attempting to make the sign of the cross.
Despite the fact that he is so well behaved, I still get a bit anxious when he starts to act up. I understand that his occasional naughty behavior is completely normal given that he is a toddler. As most toddlers, he is full of enough energy to power a small aircraft for a trip to visit our family in Toronto and sometimes, it can be difficult to be quite and sit for any amount of time that isn't three seconds. (Sometimes it is difficult for me as well.)
I have previously shared my Catholic Mass Survival Kit and I hope that it has helped. There are some additional tips that may also make going to Mass stress free:
1. Full Belly, Happy Children.
Have you've heard the term 'hangry' before? (Hungry and angry, angry because of hunger.) We've all been there, right? Our son is wild, cranky and the definition of 'hangry' when he is hungry. That combination mixed with a quiet, long Mass can be torture. So, to prevent this hangry outburst from happening, we make sure that our toddler has eaten more than enough at breakfast before morning Mass. If we are going to Saturday night Mass, we make sure that dinner or at least a large snack happens beforehand.
When I am brave enough to bring my son to Mass alone and I think that he hasn't eaten enough, I feed him extra. At the rate that he is growing, I have even let him eat a banana in the car right before going in. Of course, you can also bring in food like cereal, Larabars, banana, apple slices, or other mess free snacks with you to Mass. As he has gotten older, it has been easier for us to gradually stop bringing food and drinks in to Mass and just keep them in the car for after.
2. Make Mass Fun.
My husband and I love going to Mass. I even get a leap of joy in my heart when we are driving to Church and I think of how I am going to soon be in the presence of Jesus Christ and get to receive Him through the Eucharist. Literally, it is like butterflies in my chest each time I remember what we are going there to do. It is important to make Mass a priority. More so, it is important for our son to see the joy we feel before going to Mass.
If we were to show him that we don't really want to go to Church, then how will he ever want to? Sure, there are times when it is really, bone-chilling cold outside and I would much rather stay in my warm bed than do anything at all, but I don't let him see that. Instead, I will say something like, "we are so blessed to be able to worship God in a warm Church." This approach has worked for other situations like going to the doctor's office or the grocery store, except I definitely don't get bursts of joy when food shopping!
“The earth could exist more easily without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” ~Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
3. Monkey See Monkey Do.
To expand on the previous tip, it is important for us to model good behavior, especially at Mass. No phones, no loud talking, paying attention to the order of Mass, etc... While our son is not a monkey (even when he is literally climbing the furniture to get to his markers!) he does imitate almost everything that we do. He sees that daddy drinks espresso, he wants an espresso cup too (with milk, though), he sees that mama works on the computer, he wants to work on the computer.
He sees that mommy and daddy genuflect (kneel) before getting into the pew and before the Altar, he genuflects now. (My heart EXPLODED the first time he did this!)
Our little monkey, I mean son, has even genuflected when we've forgotten to. (Sorry, Jesus!!) It was an immediate reminder and we fixed our error.
A reminder not just for going to Mass, but in all aspects of life: our children watch and imitate everything.
4. Sit Wherever You Want.
I love when I see other families with children at Mass. As Catholics, we want our faith to continue and thrive. One important way to do this is by bringing ourselves and our children to Mass.
When you are there, sit wherever you want. The Church is God's house, He doesn't care where you sit as long as you are present. We sit in the same exact spot that we sat before having our son. Of course, if you feel more comfortable in the back, sit there. Just please don't feel pressured to sit in the back or in the crying room. The wonderful Priest that married my husband and me said that a Church filled with young children is a thriving Church. When I asked him about children making noise during Mass, he told us that he loves to hear children during Mass as it reminds him of what Jesus said:
"Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Mt. 19:13-15)
5. Grin and Bear It
Speaking of the wonderful Priest that married us, he gave us some advice when I was pregnant. He said to try to avoid taking our child to the back of the church, or outside, or anywhere else when he fussed. He said that children can actually train their parents and if we constantly removed him from the Mass each time he fussed, it would almost be like a reward. Our son would soon realize that 'all I have to do to get mommy or daddy up and moving is to make a scene.'
Instead, our Priest suggested, we should try to calm, bounce, shush or feed (or all the above) right there in the pew. This has worked wonders for us and I highly suggest it to other parents. Of course, there are situations when children will not calm down and they have to be brought out as to not disrupt the Mass and so that they can settle down as well.
What tips do you have for keeping children happy and calm at Mass? Please share any helpful tips or tricks with us on Facebook.
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
“Rachel’s Vineyard” ministry offers healing after abortion across the US and beyond. For more information, click here.
For a list of Pregnancy Resource Centers in Rhode Island, please visit Rhode Island’s Right to Life website, here.
Before you call me a hypocrite and start a petition to the Pope to excommunicate me from the Catholic Church (is that still possible?), hear me out.
In my early twenties, when I was attending a more liberal university and had gone away from the Catholic faith, I used to side more with the “pro-choice” side than the pro-life side.
My opinion on the matter used to be that while I would never have an abortion myself, I did not feel comfortable taking that “choice” away from other women. I thought that abortion should be legal for special circumstances, i.e. women who were raped, incest. etc... In fact, I even wrote a paper about my stance on the subject for a technical writing course.
I really wish I had saved that paper so that I could reflect on it now. I was even a patient of Planned Parenthood, not for an abortion but for the annual exams. I commended PP as I received these exams free of charge when I lacked health insurance. I thought that being pro-choice meant women had control over their bodies. I thought that pro-choice meant women empowerment. I thought that was the priority.
I didn’t know some things, though.
I didn’t know that in 2009, the year that I graduated from college, 789,217 babies were aborted.
I didn’t know that since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, 60,124,681 + babies have been aborted in the US alone.
I didn't know that over ONE BILLION babies that have been aborted worldwide in the past century.
I didn’t know that one in eight Planned Parenthood patients gets an abortion.
I didn’t know that only 1% of abortions were performed on victims of rape.
I didn’t know that women who have an abortion are at a high risk for mental health problems.
I didn’t know that women who have abortions have a higher risk of subsequent health problems.
I didn’t know that having an abortion can be more dangerous than giving birth.
I didn’t know how horrific abortion procedures really are. (Click here to learn more.)
I didn't know that a baby's heart begins to beat as early as 18 days from conception.
I didn't know that that tiny heart will beat 65 times a minute before the first month.*
I didn’t know that a baby can feel pain during the abortion, which is “long and agonizing.”*
I didn’t know any of this.
But, I do now.
And now I can’t “unknow” these facts.
For me, being pro-life means supporting women and babies. It means that there are always other choices instead of abortion. These choices are made possible by various resources available for women. Choice can equal life. Abortion does not equal women empowerment.
This has not been an easy journal to write.
As I have been writing this piece and researching the above facts, I have had to stop several times; especially when learning how abortions are performed, I have struggled and needed breaks.
In these breaks, I’ve cried, almost thrown up, prayed, splashed water on my face, looked at baby photos of our son, prayed again and tried to keep the nausea at bay by grabbing a ginger candy I used to eat when I was pregnant with our son.
I thought of the genetic counselor who calmly and unapologetically told us we had “options” when my son was said to have an elevated risk of Down syndrome when I was pregnant with him. I recall how I almost felt selfish at times for continuing the pregnancy. But then I remembered the unmeasurable joy each time we heard his heartbeat during the ultrasound.
While the facts concerning abortion are brutal and “hard to know”, I wish I had known them sooner.
I wish that I was “pro-life” sooner.
I wish that when I was writing my paper in college for the technical writing class that I had researched the reasons why people (now, me included) are “pro-life” instead of just focusing on making my case.
You see, pro-lifers are not here to “take women’s rights away.”
We just don’t consider murder to be a right.
A baby dies when an abortion is performed.
Even if you think it is just a “clump of cells”, if left alone the clump of cells will become a baby.
The baby will be born and the baby will be alive.
When I was a patient at Planned Parenthood, my mother came with me a couple of times.
Even though I majored in journalism and as a then-aspiring reporter, I should have been more aware of my surroundings, I wasn’t. I just sat in the waiting room, watching whatever was on the television as I waited to be called in for my annual exam.
My mother, on the other hand, caught onto something. She saw young girl after young girl leaving and eating crackers. It took my mom only a few moments to understand that these girls had all just had an abortion. When she told me this, my heart shattered. I chose to never go back to Planned Parenthood after that appointment.
My views on abortion started to change that day. Thank God and my mother that it did.
Having our son was always our only choice
But what if I were pro-choice when we were told that our son had an elevated risk of Down syndrome?
The results were not presented in a positive, encouraging and uplifting manner.
Instead, the genetic counselor said we had "options” (abortion).
Who knows, maybe he wouldn’t be here today.
Maybe my son would have been one of the 67% of babies aborted due to a Down syndrome screening.
But instead, I yelled at her and said abortion would never be an option.
We chose life. His life.
It was God’s choice to give our son to us, whichever way He wanted to.
Oh, and if you haven’t read my previous posts, our son does not have Down syndrome.
Not that it matters to us.
We would have loved and treasured him the same.
What matters to us is that science was wrong and God was right.
Thank you, God.
There is so much more that I feel I could write about this subject, but said son is wrestling in his sleep and I know nap time is almost over.
So while I used to be pro-choice. I am now, 100% unequivocally, irreversibly, completely PRO-LIFE!
I pray that I will revisit this in the future with additional journals. To keep the discussion going, please visit us on Facebook. As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn, pray for us!
“Facts & Figures.” Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/facts-figures.
“Surgical Abortion Procedures: Types, Side Effects and Risks.” American Pregnancy Association, 26 Jan. 2017, americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/surgical-abortions/.
“Reproductive Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Nov. 2017, www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm.
“Stages Of Pregnancy & Fetal Development.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7247-fetal-development-stages-of-growth.
“Demographics.” Guttmacher Institute, 1 Jan. 2018, www.guttmacher.org/united-states/abortion/demographics.
“U.S. Abortion Statistics.” Abort73, abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/.
“Post-Abortion Syndrome.” Abort73, abort73.com/abortion/post_abortion_syndrome/.
“Number of Abortions - Abortion Counters.” Number of Abortions in US & Worldwide - Number of Abortions since 1973, www.numberofabortions.com/.
“AbortionFacts.com.” Fact #13: The 8 Week+ Unborn Baby Feels Real Physical Pain during an Abortion., www.abortionfacts.com/facts/13.
Brown, Allison. “Abortion-The Facts.” Catholic365, www.catholic365.com/article/3391/abortionthe-facts.html.
Yeh, Becky. “New Video Debunks Planned Parenthood's 3% Abortion Myth.” Live Action News, 4 Jan. 2017, www.liveaction.org/news/new-video-debunks-planned-parenthoods-3-percent-abortion-myth/.
“Abortion and Down Syndrome.” Healthline, www.healthline.com/health-news/the-debate-over-terminating-down-syndrome-pregnancies#1.
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I must admit, sometimes just reading that passage above can bring on some anxiety for me.
Have no anxiety. But what if I do have anxiety? What if it will never go away?
Let your requests be known to God. But what if He doesn’t hear me? What if He doesn’t want to listen? What if I can’t turn everything over to God? How do I give up control to God entirely?
Since I was a little girl, I have dealt with anxiety and my anxiety was at its peak when my son was born. Thankfully, I have been able to rely on several “tools” to help minimize my anxiety.
The first line of defense in my anxiety is prayer. I pray all day, every day. From before sun up, to after sun down. I am also constantly praying the Holy Rosary. It is quite difficult for me in this stage of momlife to a toddler for me to pray the Rosary in one sitting, so I rely on praying “chunks” of it throughout the day. If I finish a Rosary before the day is up, I just start on the next day’s.
For me, praying throughout the day helps me feel more in control of my life and assures me that I am never alone in my anxieties or difficulties. I always turn to Jesus and through Our Lady for help.
I started going to a therapist a few months before my son turned one year old. While I wish that I had gone sooner to help ease my postpartum anxiety and subsequent lingering anxiety, I still go to this day, albeit it less often. Talking to someone outside of my sphere of family, friends and coworkers about “stuff” helps tremendously.
My second form of “therapy” that requires no health insurance nor copay is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The moment that I pour out my sins, ask for forgiveness, receive absolution and make my penance, I feel amazing. There are no words for the relief that overcomes me when I know that I have aired out all the sins weighing me down.
Not only is exercise good for the body, but it is good for the mind. When I first started going to therapy, I was adamant about not taking medication for my anxiety. (Please know that I do not think there is anything wrong with taking medication and I do not look down on anyone that does, I just didn’t want to.) I was fearful of side effects and wanted to try to battle the beast of anxiety on my own. My therapist advised me that if I were truly insistent on not taking medication, I would have to exercise.
Apparently, exercise can positively change certain chemicals in the body and can lessen anxiety and/or depression. As a self-imposed guinea pig, I can attest to this research that exercise helps with anxiety. You just have to make sure you exercise often and enough. Since I am a work-from-home mother to a toddler who is “go-go-go” (his words, not mine) from when he wakes up to when he sleeps, I wake up earlier to exercise. Waking up earlier also allows me time to pray…quietly.
Another suggestion that my therapist had was to consider supplements for anxiety. A friend suggested taking Ashwagandha root. After checking with my primary doctor, I decided to give it a try. The results were not immediate, but after almost a year of taking Ashwagandha, I have seen a considerable difference. Ashwagandha root can be used to reduce stress, anxiety, inflammation and cortisol levels and can also help improve sleep.
After extensive reading, I also began taking a daily probiotic to help increase the good bacteria in my gut. Hippocrates claimed that "all disease begins in the gut" and I read here that the “brain and the gastrointestinal [gut] system are intimately connected.”
Another supplement that I recently included in my daily regime is Vitamin D3, as my blood work showed that my current level just barely made the recommended level. Vitamin D3 has also been indirectly associated with mood disorders. For me, so far so good.
Calling For Backup
There are certain instances, however, when my anxiety does forcefully strike and I need some backup to push it back at bay. One instance where I need backup for my anxiety is sickness. Sickness is a trigger for my anxiety.
Sickness hit our house just last week in the form of the dreaded stomach flu. My son was sick on Sunday evening and then my husband and mother both began to get sick on Monday evening. Since everyone in my house had the stomach bug, I immediately felt anxiety come running like an Olympian sprinter.
Not only was I fearful that I would get sick and not be able to take care of them, but I was also anxious that they were sick to begin with.
Between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM, I kept alternating between taking care of my husband in one bathroom, my mother in the other bathroom and praying that my son would not wake up nor get sick. Each time I would lay back down to try and sleep, I would hear someone needing help. Why does the stomach bug almost always start in the middle of the night? I figured that at least I could care for them and not have my son in the crossfire.
While I usually prayerfully run to the Blessed Mother and fling myself onto her for her intercession, this time, for some reason, I started to pray to Saint Monica. In my frenzy of caring for my husband and mother, I just went with it and asked for her intercession.
My prayer sounded like this “St. Monica, I know you don’t know me or my family yet, but I was hoping that you could please intercede for my family. My mother and husband are very sick and I pray that they recover and I am able to not get sick and continue having enough strength to take care of them and also that my son does not get sick either. Thank you. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.”
Now I think that maybe the Blessed Mother (who knows I am needy) sent Saint Monica to me and was tending to my mother and husband instead. Maybe so, maybe not, but it is comforting to think of.
Praise God (and thank you Our Lady and St. Monica!) that I did not get sick, I was also able to take care of my husband and mother and my son did not get sick again.
Within a few (long) days, everyone was starting to get back to normal.
Of course, that is when I got sick, again. Thankfully, my sickness was not the stomach flu and instead just a nasty head cold. Unfortunately for me, this was the third head cold that I had gotten since Thanksgiving.
Since sickness often brings on anxiety for me, I needed backup.
What are my go-to backup tools for anxiety?
A full glass of water (dehydration can induce feelings of anxiety), a few drops of lavender oil, mind-numbingly horrible reality television (thou shalt not judge me), chamomile tea and of course, prayer.
Usually, I work like a madwoman during my son’s naptime, but for one day, I succumbed to the fact that I needed backup for my anxiety and spent the time smelling the lavender oil, watching stupid reality TV and praying during the commercials while sipping chamomile tea. I also fell asleep for a half hour and awoke to the sound of my son screeching “MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!” on the monitor.
At least we were on the mend.
Thank you again, Saint Monica. It was nice to meet you, although I wish it were under better circumstances and I appreciate any help you gave.
Do you have anxiety triggers? What are your go-to anxiety remedies? Please share on Facebook!
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always (and St. Monica, too)!
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